Seduce Me With Sapphires by Jane Feather
In the early years of the 20th century, the suffragette movement was in full swing in London, and Fenella, the heroine of this story, is at least tangentially involved, though she isn’t actually depicted going on marches or to meetings. She is, however, exceptionally independent, something facilitated both by her wealth and birth (daughter of a viscount) and by her extremely casual parents who don’t worry when she comes in at three in the morning after a night out with friends. Fenella dreams of being an actress and has been secretly taking drama classes, and the story begins when a playwright comes to her class of amateur dramatists and asks them to read his play.
Edward Tremayne hasn’t chosen this group at random, though, and he very specifically wants Fenella to read Rose, the main character from his play. It very quickly comes out that he’s been what I can only call stalking and obsessing over her, somehow conflating her with the character as ‘the only person who can play Rose’ which frankly is extremely creepy and disturbing, especially since Rose is morally ambiguous at best. Edward honestly appears morally bankrupt, and being illegitimate and cast off by his family is no excuse for his behaviour. It’s no use the author trying to make him appear heroic by saying of course he thinks women deserve the vote, when the very next thing he does is patronize and berate Fenella entirely unjustly. Actions speak much louder than words, and every action he took showed he didn’t think her to be his equal.
Fenella’s behaviour made no sense. Edward was horrible to her at their first meeting, at their second he confessed to literally stalking her, and at their third she slept with him. From then on she was lying to her family and using her friends to give her cover stories when she needed them. And for what? For a man with a hair-trigger temper who continually gaslit her and told her it was her fault he lost his temper? Walking away was the smartest thing she did, but unfortunately I knew it wouldn’t last.This was one of those rare romances where I just didn’t want the protagonists to end up together because I thought they were genuinely terrible for each other. One star for a romance which was anything but romantic.
Seduce Me With Sapphires is available now, if you like stalky gaslighting abusive heroes. Yikes.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley.
Note: I forgot how much I hated the first book in this series (https://www.catherinebilson.com/post/tempt-me-with-diamonds-by-jane-feather). That’ll teach me to one-click on NetGalley titles just because the cover is pretty.